The Saddlers tasted defeat for the first time in nine games as Forest Green Rovers walked away with all three points in the final group game of the Papa John’s Trophy thanks to goals either side of the break from Mathew Stevens and substitute Jake Young.
In a game that wasn’t littered with chances, it was the League Two leaders who were the more clinical of the two sides at the Banks’s Stadium as they overtook Matt Taylor’s side in the group to finish winners of Southern Group G.
Despite the scoreline, it was the Saddlers who started the brighter of the two sides. Debutant Otis Khan delivered a right wing corner into the box for Ash Taylor but his header was well met by Luke McGee in the Rovers goal.
After 15 minutes though it was the visitors who opened the scoring. Stevens picked the ball up just outside the 18-yard box and seemed to fool goalkeeper Jack Rose as he dragged his shot back to the near post and found the bottom corner.
Shortly after the opener, the Saddlers nearly got themselves back into it, again via that earlier combination of Khan and Taylor. Another corner from Khan found Taylor unmarked at the back post but following a deflection that took all the sting out of the header, McGee was able to claim the loose ball easily.
Moments before the half time break, the visitors went close again through Stevens. The lively Jack Aitchison beat Tom Leak and Khan down the Walsall righthand side before laying it back to Stevens but his effort went wide of the target.
Right at the end of the half, Rose was called into action twice in quick succession as a free-kick over the top was well controlled by Stevens who shot on the turn but Rose was on hand to parry it over the bar.
From the resulting corner, a Rovers man got up well but Rose was once again in the right place at the right time to claim the ball comfortably.
Into the second half and there was nearly an instant impact from Forest Green substitute Jake Young. On the breakaway, Young was played in by Aitchison but after being shown inside by Rollin Menayese, Young saw his shot well read by goalkeeper Rose.
With 15 minutes left to play the Saddlers created their best chance of the game. Another delightful ball into the box from Khan was once again met by Taylor but this time the defender cushioned it back across goal but with the ball just behind him, George Miller could only direct his volley over the bar.
But with three minutes to go of normal time, the visitors secured the victory as Young chopped back inside on his right foot to bend his effort into the top right corner, with Rose left to watch the ball fly past him into the back of the net.